Archive for May, 2015

Diverting Organic Waste and Recyclables with Integrity

May 27th, 2015

Integrity Waste (IW) is full service waste management company that specializes in collection and disposal of organic waste.  Based in Novato, California, Integrity Waste has implemented programs to handle waste in Foster City, San Rafael, Concord, and Union City.

I recently spoke with Ron Falcon, the company’s CEO, about IW’s services.  He told me that IW sorts residential waste and recycling so that harmful organic waste does not end up in landfills. To the extent recyclable materials are in the waste stream, the company also removes those, so each respective stream is “cleaner” and “less contaminated.”

IW’s business model involves teaming with municipalities to manage and dispose of organic waste, recyclables, and/or compostables in accordance with local requirements.  IW trains employees to separate the waste.

One of the important and underserved markets for these services, according to Falcon, is multi-family apartment communities.  For these and other residential communities, IW provides doorstep valet collection of waste, where the residents place the waste materials out at the allotted time and the company collects them, removes recyclables and organic waste, and takes the materials to the proper locations.

Alternatively, IW places bins on site in the residential community.  Each resident can get a compost pail and take the waste to the proper locations.  In such arrangements, IW manages the waste at the point of disposal.

When asked about intellectual property, Falcon admitted the company hasn’t thought much about branding.  However, IW does have an attractive logo (top), and Falcon told me a new one is nearly ready for release.  He didn’t provide a copy of the new design, but said it includes a man with a pail that looks like a toolbox.

One major issue IW has to be aware of is communicating clearly exactly what services it provides and the environmental benefits conferred.  Accordingly, the company is “very careful” about what it says.  Falcon said they “underpromise and overdeliver” in their communications and services.

Instead of claiming absolute numbers or percentages of organic waste properly disposed of or of recyclables actually recycled, the company communicates ranges of pounds diverted from landfill.  Last year, for example, IW helped clients divert 600,000-725,000 pounds of waste in Northern California alone.

He also noted that the company’s activities are monitored by the municipalities, by the waste haulers, and by the multifamily residences.

Falcon noted that despite the existence of recycling programs, IW’s services are sorely needed.  Even in communities that have recycling programs, multi-family residences don’t have recycling bins, he said. “This is the future.”

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

May 20th, 2015

A number of new green patent complaints were filed in the last two months in the areas of energy storage, LED lighting, and smart grid (including lighting control).

 

Energy Storage

Power Regeneration, LLC v. Siemens Corporation et al.

A Texas company call Power Regeneration has accused Siemens of infringing a patent relating to energy storage systems.  Filed April 6, 2015 in federal court in Tyler, Texas, the complaint alleges that Siemens’ SITRAS energy storage systems infringe U.S. Patent No. 7,085,123 (‘123 Patent).

The ‘123 Patent is entitled “Power supply apparatus and power supply method” and directed to a power supply apparatus and method wherein the non-polar characteristics of the electrodes of a capacitor are used to improve the energy utilization efficiency of a battery through reciprocating switches of polarity connection between the battery and the capacitor.  The capacitor allows for reverse charging, and the apparatus delivers a stable power output.

LEDs

Koninklijke Philips N.V. et al. v. Troy-CSL Lighting, Inc.

On March 20, 2015, Philips sued Troy-CSL for infringement of seven patents relating to LEDs and LED lighting devices.  The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

The patents-in-suit are:

U.S. Patent No. 6,013,988, entitled “Circuit arrangement, and signalling light provided with the circuit arrangement”

U.S. Patent No. 6,094,014, entitled “Circuit arrangement, and signaling light provided with the circuit arrangement”

U.S. Patent No. 6,250,774, entitled “Luminaire”

U.S. Patent No. 6,561,690, entitled “Luminaire based on the light emission of light-emitting diodes”

U.S. Patent No. 7,038,399, entitled “Methods and apparatus for providing power to lighting devices”

U.S. Patent No. 7,262,559, entitled “LEDs driver”

U.S. Patent No. 7,325,138, entitled “Methods and apparatus for providing power to lighting devices”

The accused products are Creative Systems Lighting (CSL) and Troy branded interior and exterior LED lighting products.  Philips has asserted several of these patents before (see previous posts, e.g., here and here).

 

Smart Grid

Endeavor MeshTech, Inc. v. Synapse Wireless, Inc.

Endeavor MeshTech, Inc. v. Tantalus Systems, Inc.

On March 25, 2015, Endeavor MeshTech (a wholly-owned subsidiary of patent monetization firm Endeavor IP) filed two more patent infringement complaints.  One was filed against Synapse Wireless in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama (Endeavor v. Synapse), and the other against Tantalus Systems in the Eastern District of North Carolina (Endeavor v. Tantalus).

The complaints accuse each defendant of infringing three patents in a family – U.S. Patent Nos. 7,379,981,  8,700,749, and 8,855,019, each entitled “Wireless communication enabled meter and network.”  The patents-in-suit relate to a self-configuring wireless network including a number of vnodes and VGATES.

The accused products are systems, modules, devices, and services under Tantalus’s TUNet brand and Synapse’s SNAP brand.

 

Sunrise Technologies, Inc. v. Cimcon Lighting, Inc.

Sunrise Technologies, Inc. v. Selc Ireland Ltd.

On April 8, 2015, a Massachusetts company called Sunrise Technologies filed suit against two competitors (Sunrise v. Cimcon; Sunrise v. Selc) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.  The complaint asserts U.S. Patent No. 7,825, 793, entitled “Remote monitoring and control system” (‘793 Patent).

The ‘793 Patent is directed to a communication system that communicates information between an end user device and a remote end user via a communication node mounted on the upper part of a utility pole.  The communication node is capable of communicating with a nearby user device using a low-power communication protocol such as the Zigbee protocol and transmits the communication to the end user via a neighborhood mesh network of nodes mounted on utility poles.

The accused products are Cimcon’s iSLC’s line of intelligent wireless controllers and Selc’s Wireless Central Monitoring Systems.

 

Intuitive Building Controls, Inc. v. Control4 Corporation

Intuitive Building Controls, Inc. v. Acuity Brands, Inc.

Intuitive Building Controls, Inc. v. AMX LLC

Intuitive Building Controls, Inc. v. Crestron Electronics, Inc.

Intuitive Building Controls, Inc. v. United Technologies Corporation et al.

Texas-baseed Intuitive Building Controls (IBC) fired off five complaints asserting infringement of one or more of three patents relating to lighting control systems.  The lawsuits were all filed in federal court in Marshall, Texas on April 14, 2015.

The patents-in-suit are U.S. Patent Nos. 6,118,230, entitled “Lighting control system including server for receiving and processing lighting control requests”(‘230 Patent), 6,160,359, entitled “Apparatus for communicating with a remote computer to control an assigned lighting load” (‘359 Patent), and 5,945,993, entitled “Pictograph-based method and apparatus for controlling a plurality of lighting loads” (‘993 Patent).

The complaints against Control4 (Intuitive v. Control4), AMX (Intuitive v. AMX), and Crestron (Intuitive v. Crestron) assert all three patents.  The complaints against Acuity Brands (Intuitive v. Acuity) and United Technologies (Intuitive v. United Technologies) list only the ‘230 Patent.

Jury Verdict for Everlight Knocks Out Nichia Patents

May 13th, 2015

 

A previous post discussed the declaratory judgment complaint (Everlight-Nichia ComplaintEverlight Electronics filed against Nichia in federal court in Michigan in April 2012.

Everlight sought declaratory judgment of non-infringement, invalidity, and unenforceability due to inequitable conduct of two patents owned by Nichia:  U.S. Patent Nos. 5,998,925 entitled “Light Emitting Device Having a Nitride Compound Semiconductor and Phosphor Containing Garnet Fluorescent Material” (’925 Patent), and 7,531,960 entitled “Light Emitting Device with Blue Light LED and Phosphor Components” (’960 Patent).

Everlight suffered a setback later that year when the court granted Nichia’s motion to dismiss the inequitable conduct claims.

However, the Taiwanese company scored a big victory recently when the Michigan jury unanimously found multiple claims of the ‘925 and ‘960 Patents invalid.  More particularly, claims 2, 3 and 5 of the ‘925 Patent were found to be invalid due to obviousness, claims 2, 14 and 19 of the ‘960 Patent were found to be invalid due to obviousness, and claims 14 and 19 of the ‘960 Patent were also found invalid for lack of enablement.

The jury declined to find claims 2, 3 or 5 of the ‘925 Patent to be invalid on the additional enablement ground.

While this is an important win for Everlight, it is just one battle in a sprawling patent war between these two LED rivals.  The litigation dates back to 2005 when Nichia first targeted Everlight for patent infringement and extends to various venues around the world.

Nichia has sued an Everlight customer in a Tokyo District Court asserting the Japanese counterpart to the ‘960 Patent (Japanese Patent No. 4350094).  Nichia also filed suit against Everlight in Germany asserting the European counterpart to the ’925 Patent (European Patent No. EP 0 936 682).

In addition to this DJ action, Everlight has filed a number of reexaminations proceedings targeting Nichia’s LED patents.

CEPGI Year in Review Shows Green Patents Hit All-time High in 2014

May 6th, 2015

The Clean Energy Patent Growth Index (CEPGI) recently released its 2014 Year in Review.  Researched and published by the Heslin Rothenberg law firm, CEPGI is a quarterly report on clean energy patents issued in the United States.

The big news is that the 3609 green patents granted in 2014 is the highest annual total since CEPGI began tracking green patent trends in 2002.  This is a jump of 434 from 2013.

The largest number of green patents was in solar technology, with 1238 solar patents, a 28 percent increase from the previous year.  Fuel cell patents were in second place, with 1024 (a 27% jump from 2013), followed by wind patents (623), and hybrid/electric vehicle patents (521).  Biofuels patents (230) were in the fifth position.

The top green patentee for 2014 was Toyota, which had 149 patents granted, followed by General Motors, with 126 granted green patents, Samsung (102 patents), Hyundai (101 patents), and Honda (97 patents).  The overall leader in granted green patents since 2002 is still General Motors, followed by Honda, Toyota, GE, and Samsung.

By technology sector, Toyota was the fuel cell patent leader in 2014 with 101 fuel cell patents granted, Samsung was the top solar patentee of the year (37 patents), and Hyundai topped the list for hybrid/electric vehicle patents, with 56.  While GE had been the top wind patentee for eight years running, Vestas came out on top in 2014, with 80 granted wind patents.

In 2014, green patent owners were a diverse group:  according to the report, “over 1500 entities contributed to the record total of Clean Energy patents last year.”

CEPGI also breaks out its data by jurisdiction, looking at the countries and individual U.S. states of green patentees.  The United States was the 2014 leader with 1504 green patents granted.  Japan took second place, with 696 patents, followed by Korea (346), Germany (316), Denmark (120), and Taiwan (118).

California was the leading U.S. state, with 385 patents, followed by Michigan (227), New York (132), and Texas (77), Ohio (56), and Massachusetts (55).

The full report can be found here.